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Peer pressure costing parents £6 billion a year

3rd August 2016 Print

Nearly half of parents (48%) feel compelled to make ‘peer-pressured parental purchases’ for their children such as smartphones, fashionable clothing and expensive parties, according to research from Sainsbury’s Bank.

The research, commissioned to support Sainsbury’s Bank’s second Family Finance Report, ‘The Family Lifecycle – The Learner Years’, reveals that the pressure to buy their children items because other children have them is adding £865to the average annual household expenditure.

Across the UK this amounts to nearly £6 billion being spent each year on expenses such as clothing, school trips and parties. On a regional basisparents in London feel the most peer pressure with 70% saying they feel it compared to just  32% in the South East.

The top three items fuelling ‘parent peer pressure’ are the need to have the latest technology, such as phones and tablets (44%); clothing (43%) and school trips and excursions (42%). These are followed by membership to clubs and societies such as football club and scouts (30%) expensive children’s parties or birthday gifts (27%).

Simon Ranson, Head of Banking at Sainsbury’s Bank said: “The rising cost of everyday living and pressure to provide the latest ‘must have’ accessory is stretching family finances further than ever before. However, there is a fine line between providing our children with the very best and balancing the books, so it’s important parents shop around to get the best deals to make their money go further.”

But the costs don’t stop there – nearly eight in ten parents (77%) with children under 18 spend on average £90 a month to send their children to clubs and on hobbies and just over one in three parents (36%) spend £143 giving them a helping hand with some private tuition – a total of £233 per month.

And as the kids get older, giving them a party to remember is de rigueur, with 52% of parents saying they expect to pay for significant birthday parties such as their 16th, 18th and 21st celebrations.

Financial writer and mum of two, Melanie Wright said: “’Pester power’ has prompted many a parent to give in to the demands of their children and buy them the items they want just to keep them quiet, but now parents are increasingly having to contend with ‘parent peer pressure’ too.  It’s vital that you don’t get carried away trying to compete with everyone else, or you could soon find yourself in financial trouble. Focus on the things which are a priority for your child, rather than the things which all their friends are doing. And if you are feeling the pressure to throw them a big party when they reach those landmark ages of 16, 18 or 21, see if you can join forces with one of their friends who has a birthday around the same time so you can split the cost – and the workload – with another family.”

Andrew Hagger, said: “Incessant marketing of the latest ‘must have’ gadgets on TV, the internet and social media has helped fuel a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mind set which has rubbed off onto the younger generation. Trying to keep up to date with the latest phones, tablets and designer clothes can play havoc with family budgets so some financial education and a reality check is essential to stop people getting into debt due to non-essential or luxury purchases.

“Children should be encouraged to understand the value of money at an early age as well as being taught some basic budgeting skills - and that’s down to both schools and parents. Peer pressure can be a big issue for children as well as a financial one for their parents, so it’s a key issue for the whole family to sit down and address as a unit.

“To help children appreciate the value of money it is important to strike a balance so that the child contributes an agreed amount towards the cost of their new phone via their own earned income (pocket money/part time job). Appreciating the value of money and how long it takes to save for something is a life skill that will stand them in good stead for years to come.”

Jasmine Birtles, Founder MoneyMagpie and author of the second Sainsbury’s Bank Family Finance Report said: “It is very hard for parents of the social media generation where kids want not just what their school friends have, but also what they see on TV and in the lives of people they only slightly know on Facebook. However, the usual rules apply: parents need to keep a dialogue going with their children, explaining from an early age what they can afford, what is important in life and how they need to be leaders, not followers, in their own lives. Teaching them to resist the pressure to have what others have and do what others do will help them lead stronger, richer and more independent lives later on.”

Top 5 tips for parents from Jasmine Birtles:

Reason with the kids. Explain how much you can afford and, maybe, give them a choice between having the latest iPhone, for example, or something else they’ve been asking for. Explain that they can only have one of them so put the ball in their court.

Go second hand. If they desperately want a new bike and you can’t afford it, look on sites like Gumtree and the police auction site Bumblebee Auctions. For tiny ones you might even find a free one by keeping an eye on your local Freecycle site.

Explain the difference between wants and needs. Say something like, "We all need food but you don't need an Xbox, even if you really want it." Your child may not get it at first, but eventually they’ll learn.

Be a role model. Show that you can delay gratification so that they learn from you. For example, when you're shopping, say, "Wow! That's a fantastic computer. I'm going to save up for it so that I can buy it soon.” Get other adults in the family to do the same so that it becomes the norm.

Turn their thoughts to giving, not having. Help your child pack up some of their  old toys and clothes, and take them together to a local charity shop. Giving to others who are less fortunate than they are will help them to learn to appreciate all the things they own.